Rockfall

Colorado Department of Transportation Crews survey the impacts of a rockfall incident in Glenwood Canyon on Tuesday afternoon. The rockfall occurred at 1 a.m. Tuesday and closed both directions of travel on the highway until eastbound lanes reopened around 11 a.m. Crews were working Tuesday evening to get one westbound lane open.

 

Update, 7 a.m.: One westbound lane of the highway opened through Glenwood Canyon at 9 p.m. Tuesday night. "Please take it slow through the cone zone!" the Colorado Department of Transportation wrote on its Facebook page.

Colorado Department of Transportation crews were working into the evening Tuesday in an attempt to get one westbound lane of Interstate 70 open through Glenwood Canyon, following a rockfall incident that occurred around 1 a.m. Tuesday.“It’s good news for the folks who are trying to get westbound,” CDOT spokeswoman Tracy Trulove said during a 6 p.m. press briefing.

Eastbound lanes were open as of 6:35 p.m. Tuesday. Those lanes closed when after the incident was reported and then first reopened around 11 a.m. Tuesday. They were closed again around 3:40 p.m. when a rock scaling crew went to work to mitigate additional hazard boulders that were perched on the canyon walls.

Westbound lanes had been closed since the overnight rockfall incident at mile marker 120.5 near Grizzly Creek that is believed to be related to the recent freeze-thaw cycle. Roughly 25 to 30 truckloads of material came off an east-facing canyon wall and fell on the westbound lanes. The debris damaged roughly 100 feet of bridge rail along the south side of the elevated westbound roadway and 40 feet of parapet wall, Trulove said. Three or four craters were left in the westbound roadway and some of the boulders that came off the canyon wall were the size or large cars, Trulove said. The eastbound lanes were not damaged, she said.

While no one was injured as a result of the overnight rockfall, one driver’s car suffered a blown-out tire as a result of the rockfall, before CDOT was able to close the highway, Trulove added.

This latest rockfall incident is not on the level of a 2016 slide that impacted traffic on the roadway for a month, including a full closure in both directions for over a week.

“This is definitely not to the scale of the 2016 rockfall. That’s a relief for anyone trying to travel I-70,” Trulove said.

Roadway repairs to the westbound deck and bridge railings are likely to take two to three weeks, Trulove said, adding that more information will be known after contractors visit the site on Wednesday. Westbound travel will be limited to one lane through the impacted area for most of that time and additional closures are possible.

CDOT uses a special maintenance team to bust the boulders, Trulove said. A geotechnical team and the same rockfall team from GeoStabilization International, which were also called into action in 2016, are assisting in this operation.

The closure points for the incident are eastbound at exit 116, which is the main Glenwood Springs exit, and westbound at exit 133, Dotsero. Commercial vehicle truck parking has been implemented at the Dotsero location.

The alternate driving route via Rifle, Craig, Steamboat Springs and Wolcott will add at least three hours to a trip between Glenwood Springs and Denver. Independence Pass and Cottonwood Pass are closed and are not alternative routes. The same is true of Frying Pan Road and Hagerman Pass.

About 300 vehicles typically pass through the canyon each hour during the daytime, according to CDOT.

Trulove said that the official announcement regarding a westbound reopening would be made on the CDOT Facebook page. Updates are also available at www.cotrip.org.

Madeleine Osberger is a Contributing Editor for Aspen Daily News. She can be reached at madski@aspendailynews.com or on Twitter @Madski99